I have never looked at a chuck or arm beef roast – with its ribbons and pockets of fat – and thought, “That needs more fat. Let’s cook it in butter.”
And, this is coming from a fan of butter, for whom my allegiance is surpassed only by that for bacon.
In savory dishes, fat adds flavor and keeps meat moist, but too much is not good. Excessive fat makes a dish greasy, immediately unpleasant to the palate, later to the stomach and much later to the heart.
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Which brings me to the recipe Mississippi Pot Roast. I’m a latecomer to this popular regional take of cooking a beef chuck roast in a slow cooker, having just tried it a few weeks ago at a friend’s dinner.
The recipe makes a gravy, which can be ladled over the meat and a side of potatoes. The leftovers are excellent as a beef sandwich with caramelized onions and provolone cheese.
Recipe etymology intrigues me. So, what makes a pot roast recipe “Mississippian”?
My friend didn’t know, but she said it’s super easy with only four ingredients added to a chuck roast.
“A stick of butter, …” she started.
“Wait. What? Butter? A stick? With a chuck roast?”
I had to ask her to repeat the other ingredients because the mental cogs locked down at the thought of combining that much butter with a chuck roast.
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As for the Mississippi angle, thanks go to the New York Times in 2016, a 2019 Southern Living article and a more recent SouthernKitchens.com 2021 article for an explanation.
The short version is that Robin Chapman in Ripley, Mississippi crafted the recipe, based on one from her aunt. Chapman’s simply titled Pot Roast recipe exchanged hands between relatives and friends, ending up in a church cookbook.
The recipe expanded digitally when a congregant’s relative raved about the recipe on her Laurie’s Life Internet blog. Somewhere early in the recipe’s journey, Mississippi was added to the name.
Here’s a recap of the blog’s version of the recipe: Add an about 3-pound chuck roast to a Crock Pot or other slow cooker. Sprinkle over the meat dry packets of ranch dressing and au jus gravy mix. Place a stick of butter and four or five whole pepperoncini peppers on top of the meat. Cook on slow for eight hours.
To its credit, the roast did not taste overtly greasy. The braising, prepackaged seasonings and peppers yield a toothsome but tender, punchy roast. This is not your typical Sunday supper blasé roast.
Variations of this recipe bound. I have below an adaptation of the Food Network’s Instant Pot recipe. The Instant Pot offers two pros: the speed of pressure cooking, and the ability to brown and cook the meat in one vessel.
I also used a bone-in arm roast, which comes from the same general shoulder area of the cow as the chuck roast. The bone infuses a deeper flavor during braising.
Beef stock and some of the vinegary liquid of the peppers replace the butter. I also used sliced peppers so I don’t have to remove the stems from the whole peppers before serving.
Because of the sodium in the packet mixes and stock, the only seasoning the meat needs for browning is freshly ground black pepper.
The resulting dish was just as flavorful as my friend’s. When it’s all said and done, the pepperoncini peppers make this dish, I think.
As for the butter, save it for the crust of a Mississippi Mud Pie.
Share your favorite recipes or food-related historical recollections by emailing Laura Gutschke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No-Butter Mississippi Pot Roast in the Instant Pot
2-1/2- to 3-pound chuck or arm roast (recommended bone-in)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cups beef stock
1/4 cup liquid from pepperoncini jar
1 (1-ounce) packet Hidden Valley The Original Ranch Dips Mix
1 (1-ounce) packet McCormick Au Jus Gravy Mix
1/2 to 1 cup sliced pepperoncini (depending on spicy preference)
1. Pat the roast dry with a few paper towels, then season all over with a few grinds of black pepper. If necessary, cut the meat in half so it can lie flat on the bottom of the Instant Pot for browning.
2. Set the Instant Pot to sauté on high. Add the oil and heat for about 2 minutes. Do not let smoke. Add the roast (the meat should sizzle when it hits the hot oil). Cook until well browned on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. Remove to a plate using tongs.
3. Add the beef stock and juice from the pepperoncini jar. Use a flat-edged utensil to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, also known as deglazing.
4. Stir in the packets of ranch dressing and au jus mixes until just dissolved.
5. Return the roast to the pot, stacking the meat if necessary. And, the meat does not have to be fully submerged in the sauce. Scatter the pepperoncini slices on top.
6. Follow the manufacturer’s guide to locking the lid and preparing to cook. Set to pressure cook on high for 1 hour and 10 minutes. After the pressure cooking is complete, follow the guide for a natural release. After 10 minutes, being careful of any remaining steam, unlock and remove the lid. Transfer the roast to a cutting board using tongs, leaving the liquid in the pot. Use forks to shred the beef.
7. Use a large spoon or small ladle to skim off as much fat as possible from the pot. Add the shredded beef back to the pot and stir to combine. Or, serve the meat and gravy separate. Yields about 8-10 servings.
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Laura Gutschke is a general assignment reporter and food columnist and manages online content for the Reporter-News. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.